Stop. Stop moving, stop creating things to do, stop thinking. Sit still and, well, be. Our world is buzzing with a trillion distractions. Nhat Hanh points out the incredible juxtaposition of the West’s goal-oriented go go go nature and the Buddhist quest for “aimlessness.” The idea is to take a moment (or an hour, or a day) and simply appreciate. Pay attention to each of your senses. What do you smell? What do you hear? Stopping and doing “nothing” reduces the mental load and brings our attention back to all the things we take for granted. Like clouds or double rainbows. These details will sing in my memory and bring life to my writing long after the trip. Breathe. For Nhat Hanh, this is where it all begins. Pay attention to inhalations and exhalations, which brings the mind into sync with the body. It’s a clever tactic that quickly dials back the inner monologue and brings you into the moment. It also puts me in a drowsy stupor which I assume to be some meditative stage. Over time the goal is to be aware of your breathing at all times. In other words, always in the present. Smile. The foundation of mindfulness is happiness, and one could argue happiness doesn’t exist unless you’re consciously aware of being happy. Smiling, even when not necessarily happy, can trick the brain into giving you little blasts of happy neurotransmitters. I really like one section of the book where Nhat Hanh ties smiling and happiness to art. He says “Can you imagine an angry painter giving birth to such a smile?” [in reference to the Mona Lisa]. I’ve never written anything worth a damn while angry.
I am doing quite a bit of traveling lately so I thought this post was pretty well timed. Basically it talks about staying in the now while traveling. We all know how rushed you can be trying to get through security, finding your next hotel, meal, etc. It is really important to just stop and take moment to be in the now and enjoy your surroundings.
These tips will work well for traveling or for every day, normal life. I recommend living in the present every moment as all we have is the now.